Viacom's Dauman: Things could get 'a little rocky' with Dish negotiations

Conducting a wide-ranging Q&A with the Los Angeles Times as his company faces tumult in areas of top-level leadership, program ratings and share prices, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said he wouldn't be surprised if stalled carriage renewal talks with Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) weren't also soon one of his problems. 

"We generally don't comment on negotiations," he said. "Dish has been a good partner for a very long time, and I am confident that we can come up with a deal that we both feel good about. We are going in with a realistic and reasonable approach. But we won't be surprised in today's environment if things get a little rocky along the way before it gets done."

A year ago, Dish held a hard line in renewal talks with Time Warner Inc., 21st Century Fox and CBS Corp., leading to brief blackouts of some networks. Pay-TV industry analysts believe Viacom, which has struggled to find carriage and ratings traction for its networks recently, will probably experience similar negotiating troubles when its deal with the satellite operator comes up later this year. 

But that's just one of Dauman's concerns. Speaking of Viacom's broader business, he even invented a new word, "awfulize," to describe the publicly traded conglomerate's recent struggles. 

"I think there has been a lot of awfulizing taking place," he told the Times. "The media industry as a whole is a strong business. People enjoy the content we make. It is an adaptable business, over many decades we have shown strong adaptability. We are generating significant cash flow, much more significant cash flows than some of the companies of the moment who get high valuations. We are investing in our future and building more new facilities than we ever have in our history, whether it is L.A., New York or London."

Asked about future over-the-top plans, Dauman said: "We're a global company, so we are testing different products around the world. We just launched MyMTV in November in France, which is a customized MTV, just as we launched MyNick Jr., which is now in the U.S. and all over the world. Being a global company, we have an opportunity to test new products that can originate in the U.S. and go abroad, and vice versa."

He also tried to calm investor concerns over the health of Viacom's L.A.-based 92-year-old chairman, Sumner Redstone. "I always visit Sumner when I go to Los Angeles, I always enjoy the visit and he's doing OK," Dauman said.

For more:
- read this Los Angeles Times story

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